Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: March 2017

Hans Zimmer vs John Williams: Live in Singapore 2017

Who wouldn’t pay to see two of the most acclaimed film composers in world history wrestle it out in a vat of duck fat, stripped to the waist, bloodied and bruised? Sadly, that will never happen and this peculiarly gladiatorial titled event would disappoint as it was merely a musical homage to Messrs Zimmer and Williams performed by a live orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis.

And it was a jolly good show, it has to be said.

Movie scores when done right (and Williams and Zimmer do it right) can elicit more emotional connections to a movie and remain long in the memory. When you remember a scene; you remember the score. When you review a movie; the score plays a major part. Think of a movie, any movie. You now have the score in your head. You’re welcome.

A few empty seats a few minutes before kick-off.

As I sat and listened to the live orchestra in the Mastercard Theatre in Marina Bay Sands I fondly remembered emotive scenes and pivotal moments in each of the movies. E.T theme song? Being scared out of my mind of “sick E.T”. “Time” from Inception? Spinning top totem. Princess Leia’s Theme from Star Wars? “I love you” “I know”. Theme from Close Encounters? The final aliens reveal. Jurassic Park theme? “They’re uh…they’re flocking this way”. Schindler’s List theme? “I could have saved more” Even the instantly recognisable “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter brought me quickly back to the magic of a movie I don’t really think of as being in my top 10.

As you can tell from the short list above it was a high quality set list of many famous movie tunes. Immaculately performed and backed up by an effective yet nuanced laser show. The show finished off with a couple of Star Wars scores (with a couple of Stormtroopers appearing on the upper gangways) and Superman’s theme song (Niagara Falls rescue!). The conductor, Anthony Inglis, was a motley host with humorous asides and a couple of audience participation bits thrown in for good measure. It was also a treat to focus on different parts of the orchestra throughout to see the professionalism and timing of the various sections.

As a venue, The MasterCard Theatre is a handily located venue for events like this. I was in seat 49 in Row A of the dress circle. Right on the end of a row beside the exit door G. Unfortunately this row suffers from a maddeningly placed safety bar! If you’ve got the common sense to make your way to a live performance, you probably don’t need a safety railing! Not a show stopper but a little annoying.

I now have various movie themes going through my head…bom, bom, bom, bombebom, bombebom.

Taxis and Car Hailing in Singapore

Update April 4th 2017: Both Grab (titled JustGrab it which will choose between taxis and GrabCar..cars) and ComfortDelGro are introducing flat rate trip booking on their apps. Jury is out on how these initiatives will go down with the consumers..

When we arrived in Singapore in 2011 we were beyond excited that we could access our phone and order a taxi from a couple of different apps; ComfortDelGro, Trans-Cab and SMRT Book a Taxi. Jaws dropped as we saw the little taxi on the map heading our way…we were used to Hong Kong where you had to hail the old fashioned way; this was ground-breaking stuff.

Fast forward five years and a lot has changed; apps have appeared and apps have disappeared. Let’s take a look at how the whole scene is in March 2017.

Apps that are dead

There was a time a few years ago when my “Taxis” folder was crammed full of apps. Hailo – dead. Gone.
Lyft – appeared for a short time. Now unavailable. Don’t know if it will be back.
Easy Taxi – dead. Ceases to be.

Apps that exist as of March 2017

Uber
Bulldozing onto the scene in 2013 Uber is now my usual go-to app. At first, getting a lift in a personal car was strange to get used to but now it’s second nature. Constantly battling with Grab for fare deals and competitive pricing lends itself to a cheap option for getting around Singapore. Branching off from their standard UberX private car option, Uber now offers UberPool (sharing the fare with other passengers), UberExec (fancy-pants option), uberXL (up to 6 peeps), ExecLarge (fancy-pants parties of 6), and you can now just order a taxi through their app.

Grab
Launched in 2013 as GrabTaxi (renamed to Grab in January 2016 to encompass all the other options they offer), beating Uber by a couple of months, Grab was a game changer for…grabbing…taxis in Singapore. It gave us more taxis available to us as it pooled all the different companies’ taxis into one bookable engine. More taxis=more chance to get a taxi when we want. Like Uber, it dishes out fare deals and offers every few days in the quest to squash and kill any competition once and for all. Long may it last! And like Uber, it offers more options than it’s standard taxi option. It has it’s own Uber competitor (GrabCar), GrabHitch (like UberPool), GrabCar Premium (UberExec), Electric Taxi (interesting new option where you can fight against the oil giants and choose electric. Not many cars on this yet and still in Beta), a bunch of 6 seater options, and they’ve just started Coach hires. Other trials they are doing are with autonomous cars, and family friendly cars (with booster seat). Seems that Grab is branching out in a few more innovative and different directions than Uber at this stage. Let’s see!

ComfortDelGro
Nostalgia (and desperation) brings me back to this app once in a while but this is mostly long forgotten about with the power houses of marketing that Uber and Grab are. This is basically limited to Comfort’s own taxis.

SMRT Taxi
Again, this app is only limited to the SMRT line of taxis. I never use this as Grab gathers all companies together when booking.

Trans-Cab
Never used it or use it now. It has only 5 thousand downloads on the Google Play Store and a rating of 2.2/5 stars. For Singapore’s second largest taxi fleet this is shocking. Also, they have recently announced they will introduce “dynamic pricing” which mirrors Uber’s Surge pricing and hikes the prices to hire a taxi when demand is high. Another loss for the customer.

Generally speaking, a good time to be looking for a taxi/car in Singapore, ignoring the surge pricing when high demand hits and the magical disappearance of all taxis when a rain storm hits.

But wait, there’s more! We all were quite perplexed that the Singapore government were allowing these private citizens to just take up driving people around for a fee. So it’s not a surprise that the government has recently stated that every driver will have to obtain a vocational license, along with other regulations that will look to curb the exponential growth of Uber and Grab. I guess it’s a case of let’s wait and see…

Eddie Izzard: Live in Singapore 2017

The queen of erstwhile surrealist humour, Eddie Izzard, stopped by Singapore this week to deliver his force majeure stand up show. Starting this particular tour in 2013, one would be led to believe Eddie has this show down to a scientific tee. And he pretty much does.

It was only when I got there I realised that I had been to the University Cultural Center on the grounds of NUS (National University of Singapore) a few years ago to see John Cleese. It’s a fine venue if you don’t want a drink before the event as there’s only one bar with one server in the lobby. I had Vietnam-esque flashbacks to Guns N Roses looking at the snake like queue before the show. And you can’t bring drinks into the actual theatre.

Izzard starts his show off with some historical observations and surreal anecdotes, often warping historical events with his own unique angle on things. I thought he would have went along on that path throughout and I thought it was a good theme for a show; surrealistic historical anecdotes along a solid timeline. He strays off on to several tangents from then on though and the show feels a little all over the place. Which, I guess, suits Izzard’s style and manic, rambling delivery. But funny? Yes, generally funny with some laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout.

It’s also very apparent how his shows would work in French and German which Izzard has performed during this tour. Some clever and witty bits on those languages are tackled here and there.

Izzard takes a 10 or so minute break in the middle which leaves little room for thirsty beer hunting patrons to head down and queue yet again for their refreshments. Boo hoo.

In the second half Izzard continues where he lets off and seems to “try” new off the cuff rambles (which he drily note several times “Singapore says no”) but again it feels like even those are scripted and clinical due to the knowledge we have that he has being doing this show for coming on 4 years now.

Wrapping up, Izzard brings back a few things he mentions at the start of the show to bring a sense of conclusion to proceedings. One thing I felt dragged on for too long was the talking chicken bit. Didn’t work for me.

All in all, a funny show with some stand out (up?) highlights throughout but with a bit of a clinical sheen to it.

Leaving University Cultural Centre is, of course, a nightmare as it’s nowhere near an MRT show. Lines of people…line…the roads faces blazed from their phone screens trying to snag an Uber or Grab but we manage to entice an Uber from 15 minutes away.

Et voila.

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